Jagannath Puri Dham or Jagannath Puri or even Puri as it is called, is situated on the sea shore of the Bay of Bengal in the State of Orissa (India). It is one of the four Holy Kshetras of India including temples at Rameshwaram, Dwaraka, Badrinath and Puri. The city is home to the world-famous Jagganath temple. The temple enshrines Krishna-Jagannath in the form of a wooden image along with shrines of Balabhadra and Subhadra (brother and sister of Krishna respectively).
Construction of the temple was started by Ananta Varman Chodaganga during 12th century A.D. and was completed by Ananga Bhima Dev. This vast temple complex occupies an area of over 400000 square feet, and is bounded by a 20 feet high wall. This compound contains about 120 shrines. The top of the Jagannath temple towers to a height of 192 feet. This temple stands on an elevated platform of stone, which measures about 10 acres and is located in the heart of the town. The temple has four halls, outermost being the Bhogmandir, hall for having food. Next one is the Nata-mandir, a hall for music and dance. The next is the Jagamohana, the gathering hall for devotees and the last one is the Deul, enshrining the deities. The temple has four gates at the eastern, southern, western and northern midpoints of the Meghanad Prachir (the outer enclosure) and are called Lions gate, Horse Gate, Tiger Gate and the Elephant Gate respectively. The architecture of the temple follows the pattern of many Orissan temples of the classical period. This temple has the world's largest kitchen and feeds thousands of devotees every day. The kitchen prepares food for 100,000 people on a festival day and for about 25,000 on a normal day.
The original image of Jagannath was said to be found at the foot of a fig tree, as an Indranila (Blue Jewel). Lord Vishnu ordered King Indradyumna to dig out this image and search for a floating log on the Puri seashore to carve out images from its trunk. The King discovered the log and then came lord Vishnu and Vishwakarma in the form of artists to prepare images of Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra. The temple got constructed in 12th century by King Ananta Varman Chodaganga and has a lovely architect design which depicts the traditional Orissan style of architecture.
The world famous Rath Yatra is related to the Jagannath temple and occurs annually in June-July. During this festival, the three deities are taken from the temple and placed in large decorated chariots which are then drawn along the Grand Road to the Gundecha temple, a few kilometers away. After they have stayed in that temple for seven days, the deities again ride the chariots back to their home temple.
Maha-prasada is pure vegetarian spiritual food offered to Lord Jagannath. Just by eating this maha-prasada one makes great spiritual advancement. Every day, fifty-six varieties of prasada are offered to Lord Jagannath. The main offering of the day becomes available anywhere from 3 to 5 pm (sometimes later). The offering times are not exact and change day by day.
Gundicha Temple: The most important sanctuary of Jagannath is the Gundicha temple, the abode to which Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are driven each of his or her wooden cars once in a year, during the Car Festival. Except for these few days it is unoccupied, but there is a small establishment of servants by whom it is regularly maintained. It is situated at the other end of the great highway (Badadanda). The distance between the gates of Jagannath temple and the Gundicha temple, is exactly 2,688.0696 meters (8327 feet). The temple is surrounded by a wall and stands in the middle of garden. It consists of four pars connected with kitchen rooms by a narrow passage. The tower, a construction of Pidha type, is 75 feet high with a base of 55 feet by 46 feet outside, and 36 feet 8inches by 27 feet inside. All the four structures (Vimana, Jagamohan, Natamandap, and Bhogamandap) bear the traces of several plastering and are carved in places with obscene figures in mortar. There is a plain raised seat, 4 feet high and 19 feet long, made of chlorite, and this is called the Ratnavedi- the throne on which the images are placed when brought to the temple.
Astasambhu Temple: The eight guardians Siva's of this abode of Jagannath (Vishnu) are Markandeswar, Yajneswara, Nilakantheswara, Vilveswara, Kapalamochana, Baleswara, Isaneswara and Pataleswara.
Astachandi Temple: The eight Chandis, collectively called Astachandi, are Bata Mangala, Bimala, Sarvamangal, Ardhasani, Alamba, Dakshinakalika, Marichika and Harachandi.
Panchatirtha Temple: The sacred tanks are Indradyumna near the Gundicha temple, Manikarnika in the Marnikarnika street, Markanda towards the north of the Jagannath temple and Swetaganga towards the south of the Jagannath temple. These four tirthas or sacred waters together with the sea make the Panchtirtha or five sacred waters in which pilgrims are solemnly enjoined to take bath. Some of these places and few other places, such as: Lokanath temple, Atharnala Bridge, etc., deserve special mention.
Loknath Temple: This is the fomous Siva temple of Puri Located about One Kilometer away from the Jagannath Temple towards the western end. There is a popular belief that Lord Ram had installed this lingam with a Lauka or Pumpkin. The Temple was build during 10th-11th century A.D. The devotees come here to see Lord Loknath in order to be cured from any kind of disease. There are certain festivals observed in this temple out of which 'Saranti-Somobar-mela' is the important one. There is a streem on the head Sivalinga playing the roal of the Ganges and linga, It self remains under the water. The flowers, sandal paste, 'Bilva-patra', etc. offered to the God remain decomposed in the water emittining a special smell and teast being medicated as a whole. people take it as Prasad, in order to be cured from the disease that they suffered for. The festival of Siva Ratri is observed in the temple of Lokanath with great devotion. A meeting of Siva and Vishnu takes place on the day.
Chakratirtha Temple: The Chakratirtha, a small and unprotected pool, is in the South-eastof Jagannath Temple on the Sea-Beach of popularly known as C.T. Road headind towards Pentha Kata- The fisherman village. It is evidently a part of the old mouth of the Balagandi stream that flowed across the Badadanda to the sea. The place is known as Bankimuhana. Near-by is the temple of Chaitanya called Sunar-Gouranga, a place largely visited by the pilgrims.
Chakranarayan Temple: Towards the northern side of the temple of Sunar-Gouranga is the temple of Chakranarayana. The image of Lakshmi-Narasimha is worshipped here.
Daria Mahabir Temple: At the distance of about thirty meters to the west of the Chakranarayan temple, Daria Mahabir is a small temple dedicated to Hanuman. He is also known as Bedi Hanuman.
Ardhasani Temple: On the way to Gundicha temple, Ardhasani is a small temple dedicated to the goddess of that name. She is also known as Mausi Maa (motherís sister) of Lord Jagannath.
Siddha Mahavir Temple: At a distance of about half a mile (804.672 meters), to the west of Gundicha temple, there is a small temple dedicated to Siddha Hanuman. It is believed that Tulasidas resided at this place during his stay at Puri. It is a beautiful spot for picnic.
Jameswara Temple: This is again a temple of 11-11th Century A.D. located on the extreme end of Harichandi Street. It howed Jameswara Siva, who protects this holy land from the influence of Yama, on the other hand it is know on as Yamanaka Tirtha. Again this temple is one of the historical evidences, if analysed, can get lot of evidence of the culture of Puri. Besides, there are many religious shriness and sanctuaries found in each and every street of Puri. There are Ashrams of saints like Pandu, Angira, Bhrigu and Nigamananda and others also found in the different areas.
Alabukeswara Temple: Alabukeswara is a Saiva shrine situated to the west of the Yameswara. It is spoken of in high terms by the Kapila Samhita for making barren women fruitful.
Kapalamochana Temple / Manikarnika: Kapalamochana is a small Saiva temple in the immediate neighborhood of the Alabukeswara in the Manikarnika Sahi. The sacred pool of Manikarnika is also located here. Besides all these temples and sacred places as, Sama Kali, Dakhina kali, Barahi in Bali Sahi; Ramachandi in Kundheibenta Sahi and Putia Rani temple near Bus stand on the Badadanda.
Daksinakali Temple: The temple is situated towards south-eastern side of the Lord Jagannath temple on Balisahi. Puranic tradition say that in Sriksetra or Puri, Sri Jagannath is regarded as Daksinakalika. The deity is enshring in a modern temple at an higher rasied platform. The temple is facing to east an consist of a vimana and a Jagamohana. The deity is four armed and seated on a corrpse. She is shown as drinking blood, with a dagger and holding severed head in two of her hands. It is believed that Daksinakalika is the guardian of the kitchen of the Lord Jagannath Temple.
Syamakali Temple: These shrines are there in the old palace of Gajapati Kings of Puri. Now the historical Royal Palace is situated in the grand trunk road (Bada danda) of Puri. This is a new Place. The old Palace was there in Bali Sahi. From the Southen door of Lord Jagannath temple one can go to this place.
Dasavatara Temple: There is a ruinous temple of the 'Dasavatara' of Vishnu near Gundicha temple. This is the place where the Kabi Jayadeve, the author of Gitagovindam stayed . Being inspired with the ten incarnations of Vishnu, he wrote Dasaavatara Strotra in his famous work Gitagovindam.
The Temple of Seven Mother Goddesses: This temple is situated on the embankment of a big sacred pond, Markandeya Soravara. This reminds us of the similar temple build at Dasasvamedha Ghat of Yajpur built in the 10th century by the Somavamsi Kings. Brahmi, Maheswari, Andri, Kaumari, Vaisnavi, Varahi and Camanda are known as the seven mother Goddesses. Sometime Narasimha replace Vaisnavi, a female from the man-Lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu. However, the Shrine of the seven mother goddess at the pond Markanda proves very well that once upon a time Puri was a bonafide Sakta Pitha and Goddess Vimala was the presiding deity of this pitha.
Mausima Temple: The three chariots of Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra start from the Singha Dwara of the Temple of Jagannath and reach at 'Gundicha Temple', at the other end of the Bada danda. In between 'Gundicha Temple' and 'Singha Dwara' there comes the Shrin of the Goddess, Ardhamsini or Ardhasini. Popularly known as Mousima (aunt) of Jagannath where the Lord take a bhoga of 'Podapitha", a special cake. It is stared in Skanda Purana, Vaisanava Knadha that during the deluge, when the sea overflooded Puri, this goddess drank half of the flood water and saved the town. There for her name become Arthasini.
Bada Danda: This is the Grand Road and is as wide as a modern freeway. It extends from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple, and is the scene of the great Festival of the Chariots or Ratha Yatra.
Chilka Lake: Situated southwest of Puri, Chilka is the largest fresh water lake in Asia (65 kms long, 8-20 kms wide, about 2 m deep). One can enjoy boating on the shimmering blue waters and in leisure one can enjoy fishing.
Ramgarh Lake: A huge artificial lake created by constructing a high bund amidst tree-covered hills. While the temple of Jamwa Mata and the ruins of the old fort are some of its antiquities, its beautiful landscape makes it an idyllic picnic spot.
The Beach: The fine white sands of Puri beach and the roar of the breakers rolling in from the Bay of Bengal have fascinated visitors throughout the years. The local fishermen, with their catamarans and wide-brimmed cane hats, are also expert masseurs. With excellent hotels and guesthouses, the Puri beach is an ideal holiday spot.